Lamenting the loss of the old Los Alamos

-A A +A
By Richard Hannemann

Consider the last 9 years – the fire and how many of the original houses of Los Alamos were lost.  The theater and the sense that the community center will never be the social agora it once was. The demolition of the Municipal Building.  The planned demolition of the LA Apartments and the buildings on Trinity site.  The three houses, again from the original stock, for the sake of street widening. Proposed demolition of Aspen Elementary and the bulk of the high school classrooms.

Add to that the number of businesses that have closed which had been here since time out of mind.

At what point does Los Alamos cease to be?  More importantly, at what point does Los Alamos cease to be comfortably familiar to those who have known and loved it for 20, 30, 40 or more years?

For some, the effect of the sense of loss is cumulative.  There are people in Los Alamos who have known and loved Los Alamos far longer than I, who participated in the creation of this town, who essentially stand to lose everything they worked for. How much should they be asked to sacrifice for “the greater good?”

And while they see everything which has been comfortably familiar to them for so long fall to the bulldozer, they must also listen to the derisive remarks of all that has been comfortably familiar;  comments like, “eyesore,” and “blighted” and “making Los Alamos attractive to the kind of people we want” — and does that last mean that the people who have long found Los Alamos attractive are not wanted?

Can such an overwhelmingly compelling case be made for the Downtown Master Plan and for downtown revitalization as to require that people sacrifice so very much?  Do the economic and social benefits of putting the Muncipal Building downtown so vastly outweigh the social cost of rebuilidng it where it was as it was?

Do those who prefer the Muni Building downtown truly believe that their loss of open space at the Pond, the view of the mountains and the unproven economic returns are so much greater than the sense of loss of history, heritage, legacy, identity, community, culture and familiarity of those who would prefer the Muni Building  at the pond?  Cannot the new Los Alamos find it in their hearts to at the least throw old Los Alamos a bone?  Or must this be a zero-sum game of “We win, you lose; and if you don’t like it, leave?”


Richard Hannemann

Los Alamos